Love the book. It was a page turner for me. I like how it was written via through letters, diaries, notices pinned on the Village Hall or Church, journal entries etc. It was also the author's note which enlightened me to the fact that diaries and journals were encouraged during the war years - they were sent to "headquarters" and published in newsletters. These documents, from ordinary individuals, would back then and even more so now, become a treasure trove of information about that time.
Anyways - a bit about the choir and the characters.
The choir - When the vicar posted a notice that the choir will no longer be "as all our male voices have gone to war", a music teacher - Ms Primrose Trent set about to created the Chilbury Ladies Choir. Here are two lovely quotes by Prim (the shortened form of her name was how she was widely known)
"Music takes us out of ourselves, away from our worries and tragedies, helps us look into a different world, a bigger picture. All those cadences and beautiful chord changes, every one of them makes you feel a different splendour of life."
And here again is Prim's encouraging voice:
"I always say that enthusiasm paves every path with a shining light."
The characters - all truly well created. There is the lonely widow and absolutely wonderful Mrs Tilling. It's only towards the end of the book that her first name emerges. With her only son, David, away on the war front, and with her being a nurse and kind soul, she emerges as a shining character in this story.
There is the very beautiful Venetia with her flirtatious antics; her dear sister - Kitty who is just like most girls "who are almost fourteen" and most likeable indeed. Their overpowering father - the Brigadier - and his timid wife.
Mrs B from the Brampton-Hall Manor - the control freak who always want to be at the centre of it all and is all about societal titles and one's place in the world.
Despicable Edwina Paltry, a midwife lacking scruples and with no compunction about black mail. Towards the end, the reader is provided some insights on her upbringing and what may have influenced her character.
Elsie the maid who is determined to improve her station in life and is amenable to teaming up with Edwina in her schemes.
The few male characters were equally interesting - the charming debonair Alastair Slater, Horrible Henry as the girls later nicknamed him, Colonel Mallard etc.
Just want to say - do read this book. It's a wonderful debut which I just couldn't put down. It had everything - romance, intrigue, spy, friendships and just a heart-warming tale of how this little village was helped by a choir to carry on and to have some uplift in their lives when all was grim around them.
"There aren't a lot of good things you can give people these days, now that everything's rationed or not allowed, but at least we can still sing. It's amazing how much better it can make you feel."
And finally a word from Mrs Tilling to young Kitty about love:
"Kitty, look at me.... Being a grown-up is a tough thing. We can't choose who we fall in love in with, or who falls in love with us. Whatever happens in your life, Kitty, you need to remember that you can't change the way someone feels about you. Love is a terribly odd emotion, and have very little to do with common sense. Sometimes it's a cozy, comfortable feeling, like tucking yourself up in a lovely warm blanket, but other times it just washes over you completely, and you simply can't help yourself."
Five solid stars.